USB or XLR microphone?

USB or XLR microphone?

“Looking for a podcasting microphone? No worries, check out this article that will tell you about what is the best podcasting microphone.

Alright, so you are buying a microphone to use with your podcast or for any other reason. One of the things that is specified on every microphone is the connector that you will use to connect it to your recording device. In general, you need to decide between a USB or XLR microphone. First, let’s see what are the criteria that will allow us to find the best microphone for you:

  1. Ease of use. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to use your microphone. At the end, every connector is of course just plug and play, but the kind of connector that your microphone is going to have will still determine where and how you can use it.
  2. Quality of the sound. Probably the most important criteria, we want your podcast (or anything else you will record) to sound crisp and without any ambient sound. We will find the best microphone for you.
  3. Flexibility. When you buy a microphone you want to be able to connect it to a variety of devices. You can record with your phone, with your computer, or with a dedicated recording device. Even more, you will maybe want to connect your microphone to a mixer. Well, the connector is the thing that will decide what you can use.
  4. Price. The price can depend also on the type of connector of the microphone.

Now, let’s look into what are the two types of microphone connectors:

XLR connector – Benefits and drawbacks

This is the kind of a connector that you can see on “professional” microphones. The theory behind this connector is that it transfers the audio in an Analog version from the microphone to the mixer. That means that the microphone does not need to transform the audio to the digital version. This is all done by the other components of the recording set-up.

  1. Quality of the sound
    Does the XLR microphone record a better sound than the USB microphone? There is no right answer to that. As said, the microphone just captures the sound and transfers it. So the quality of the sound is more dependent on the quality of the microphone not really on the way how the data is transferred. On the other hand, analog is better, right? Well, still not sure. There are great microphones out there, that will create an excellent sound with a USB connector.
  2. Longevity
    The XLR connector is big and sturdy. Because of that, if you are using it in an outdoor setting, it can last longer, because it can take a hit or two. On the other hand, if you want top-notch sound, you want to still take care of the plug, because the more you punish it, the more it will punish your sound.
  3. Impact on the wallet
    XLR microphones are usually a bit pricier (or at least their price starts higher) and you will need a mixer to plug it in. You can’t really plug an XLR microphone into a computer or an iPhone. So that means you will buy a more expensive microphone and a mixer. Your wallet will take a hit.

A USB microphone

  1. Quality of the sound
    A USB microphone will capture the sound and change it into the digital variant and send it to a recording device. Does that mean that the quality of the sound gets lost? Well, the transition from analog to digital by itself does not really mean that quality needs to be lost (at least most of the people believe that – I’m looking at you, vinyl fans). And when sound is transferred digitally this also does not mean that there will be lost on the way. There can be, but in the same way as if you transfer analog sound. The quality of the microphone is an important question and not how it is connected to the recording device.
  2. Longevity
    Well yes, if you step on a USB connector, you will probably crush it. But generally, just don’t do that. We have USB devices around us for years and they work, right?
  3. Price
    USB microphones can be cheaper, but usually not because they are USB connected, but because they have a lower quality of the microphone itself. There are expensive USB microphones out there, and you can go ahead and buy one. And there are great quality USB microphones out there that you can buy, so it is still your choice.

Why I feel that XLR is viewed as better:

This is my personal opinion. But when I started my first job as a “journalist” (I was 15 at that time, I was not really a journalist yet), all the equipment was connected via an XLR. And is still in that studio. And I feel that this is why people see XLR as something better. Concerts and TV and radio studios have been using them since forever because there was no other alternative. And still use them, because if they would want to switch they would have to change all their equipment.

On the other hand, they already use digital microphones, just look at all the microphones that are clip-on. Those are not directly connected to the mixer with an XLR. So obviously we can use digital microphones.

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